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Naropa president to discuss education in a different key

Thomas Coburn

Nestled in the heart of Boulder, Col., Naropa University is a non-sectarian institution that has integrated Buddhist values into its formal education mission. On Tuesday, Naropa President Thomas Coburn will share his philosophy of combining the contemplative traditions of Asia with the liberal arts traditions and pre-professional training of the West during a talk at 4:10 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium.

The talk is free and open to the public.

“President Coburn’s talk will expose our community to education in a different key, with contemplative education expanding our ideas of what a liberal arts education can be,” says Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and university chaplain. “With initiatives like South Mountain College underway, I would anticipate that there would be some real interest here in the alternative approach to education practiced at Naropa,” Steffen says.

“Plus, this exposure to contemplative education is meant to contribute to our ongoing efforts to prepare the campus for the visit by the Dalai Lama in July.”

Naropa University’s contemplative education is both critical and constructive, Steffen says.

“It is critical in the sense that it challenges the assumption that the thinking mind is the sole source of knowledge,” Steffen says. “It inquires into our traditional educational practices and asks if we are tapping all the resources available for such activities as observing or processing information or active listening. And it is constructive in that it engages people to attend to mindfulness awareness practices as part of those things we do associate with liberal arts education, like analysis, integration of experience into learning, appreciation for diversity, and valuing of insight and creativity.”

Although contemplative education began modestly in the mid-1970s, there is more interest in it now, and it is currently being applied by such institutions as Brown University in Providence, R.I., and the Five Colleges Consortium in Amherst, Mass.

Coburn’s lecture is sponsored by Lehigh’s Visiting Lecturer’s Committee and is the latest in a series of events designed to educate the campus community prior to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit next July. His visit will include a series of teachings as well as a half-day public lecture on July 13. The five-and-a-half days of teachings, sponsored by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in Washington, N.J., will take place July 10-15.

All of the events will take place in Stabler Arena on the Goodman Campus.

For the latest information on the Dalai Lama’s visit, check out Lehigh’s Dalai Lama Web site.

--Elizabeth Shimer Bowers

Posted on Friday, February 08, 2008

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